The end of August and beginning of September in Sicily is a period that marks many feasts in honor of various feminine saints, celebrations that are linked to ancient rites that expressed gratefulness to the earth for the bounty of the harvest. The ancient Greeks, who started to settle in Sicily in the 8th century BC, recognized that their livelihood came from working the earth and living according to the seasons. The earth, or the great mother, gave them life. They were an agrarian society, with grain being the main crop. In order to establish a successful agrarian society, living seasonally was a necessity. Hence, the cult of Demeter and Kore (Persephone) was born. Demeter’s divine role is one that extends to today’s madonnas and feminine saints. She not only was the goddess of grain and agricultural activity, but she also regulated feminine fertility in marriage and labor and tasks between the sexes. Essentially, following Demeter’s lead established order, forming the chaos of nature into a more civilized society. I’m really simplifying this mythological and political history to keep this post somewhat concise, so please forgive me. The point is, if you are traveling to Sicily during this second half of summer, it’s essential to recognize the significance of the cult of Demeter and how its roots extend to today’s modern Christian feasts. I took this photo at Siracusa’s Museo Archeologico Regionale “Paolo Orsi.” Unfortunately, I failed to make a note of the origins of this limestone or terracotta bust of a woman. I will venture to guess that it’s from the Greek period between the 5th and 6th centuries BC. This figure is only one example of hundreds of iconic divine feminine representations that exist from the ancient Greek period.
Update: 22 February 2015: This is a bust of Kore dated to be from c. 500 BC.